Charles Causley Festival
"All poetry is magic. It is a spell against insensitivity, failure of imagination, ignorance and barbarism." Charles Causley, introduction to The Puffin Book Of Magic Verse (1974)
Cornish poet Charles Causley, spent much of his life in Launceston where we are based. From today until Sunday, the sixth annual Charles Causley festival will be running. Wherever you are, poetry, the written word, creativity and freedom of expression is to be celebrated. Here's a little more about Charles' life and work, as well as the festival.
Charles Causley (1917 - 2003)
‘Writer and broadcaster was a poet of place, so much so that it is almost possible to trace his travels through his poems; they act as a kind of gazetteer.’ The Guardian
Charles was bought up by his mother in Launceston, initially in his grandmother’s cottage, which had a tendency to flood. His mother moved them both up to a higher level of town after becoming alarmed when she spotted a rat in the house. He was deeply affected by the death of his father, who died as a result of his time in the trenches in World War One, when Charles was only seven-years-old.
Displaying a passion for literature from an early age, Charles had his first play Runaway, published when he was just 19-years-old. He served in the navy in the Second World War, which set the strange and exotic locations for some of his short stories and poems. Thoughts of his father's experience of war and the poetry of Wildred Owen, Sassoon and Robert Graves made a powerful impression on him. After the war, Charles went on to train as a teacher and taught at the Primary School in Launceston, with his first published collection of poems entitled Farewell Aggie Weston, published in 1951 by beautifully titled; The Hand and Flower Press.
By 1953 Charles had become an established poet. Described as a modest man, his poetry references his locations – particularly Cornwall, his beloved home – and has a spiritual angle. Inspiration for him came from folk songs, hymns and ballads. Eyes wide open to the world, a story teller with a sense of community and devotion to his family. He started writing poetry for children in the 1970s, full of strong imagery and with a timeless quality – many of these poems have been illustrated by esteemed artists. He saw no distinction between the two strands of his work and knew instinctively what children liked. Charles also wrote poems and articles for literary magazines and encouraged young poets by using their work in the BBC programme he edited. It's lovely to listen to Charles reading one of his poems, as he never lost his Cornish sound. Listen, here.
Charles was awarded a CBE in 1986, as well as the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1967 and the Heywood Hill Literary Prize in 2000. Charles also served as a member of the Poetry Panel of the Arts Council of Great Britain.
To celebrate the Charles Causley Festival, our Launceston Nomads shop has written a short story with customers contributing a line each, following theme. If you’re in Launceston, pop by our shop to see our finished story, as well as special offers in store.
Cyprus Well on Ridgegrove Hill, Charles’ former home, will be open for the festival and will host a talk by Barry Newport on Saturday afternoon. There will also be several walks, live music, guest writers – including Philip Marsden, a live Gardeners’ Question Time panel with Johnny Mann and Alison Penno, dancing, afternoon tea, Cornwall’s Story Republic and children’s poetry. A packed event, click here for more information: www.charlescausleyfestival.co.uk
If you’re not in sunny Cornwall, or you simply feel inspired and poetic, please feel free to join in with our poem writing in the comments below.
The poem begins: “I’m sitting in a little coffee bar near the train station, waiting for my friends Sue, Alison and Liz…” What would you follow this with?
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